Some Common Names/Varieties for Cymbopogon sp

Cymbopogon citratus (lemon grass )
Cymbopogon distans 
Cymbopogon flexuosus (East Indian lemongrass)
Cymbopogon jwarancusa 
Cymbopogon martini (rosha grass, palmarosa)
Cymbopogon nardus (citronella grass )
Cymbopogon refractus (barbwire grass)
Cymbopogon schoenanthus (camel grass)
Cymbopogon tortilis 
Cymbopogon winterianus (cymbopogon grass)

The Plant:

Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) is native to India, and is a common ingredient in Asian cooking.  It grows extensively throughout Southeast Asia, Southern India, Sri Lanka, Central Africa, Brazil, Guatemala, the US and the West Indies.  Lemon grass is a perennial and will come back year after year, going dormant in the winter–though harsh climates may require the plant to be wintered indoors.  Lemon grass can also be used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes.  Species in the genus include lemongrass, citronella, palmarosa and other species and varieties that have similar uses. 

Botanical Information:

Dude…its really tall grass…  tongue 

For the scientific version, try here

Cultivation At Home:

Lemon grass rarely flowers, therefore must be propagated by division of a clump. The clump is dug up in spring then pulled apart into individual ‘bulbs’ each of which should have a well-developed root system. The leaves of the seed bulbs are cut back to just above the joints before planting. It prefers rich, well drained soil and frequent watering, particularly during hot weather to encourage growth. It will quickly form a thick clump if left undisturbed for a couple of years. In tropical or warm temperate areas lemon grass will flourish without much attention apart from a regular maturing during the growing season.  In colder regions prone to frost, it is possible to grow lemon grass as an outside plant provided the base is heavily mulched from autumn and the leaves are left uncut from about mid-autumn. Covering with a cloche will also be of benefit. The leaves may suffer frost damage in winter but the base will be protected. In spring, the leaves should be cut back by a half or two-thirds and the mulch thinned to allow new growth to develop during the warm weather. Alternatively lemon grass can be grown as a pot plant to be brought indoors during cold weather. The leaves can be harvested several times during the growing season as needed. The bulbs can be harvested once the clump is sufficiently large to allow for division.

From http://www.herbherbert.com/pdf/lemon_grass.pdf

*the bolded is the method I have tried with success

If you would like to try growing your own lemongrass, the easiest way to find plants is to buy a few stalks from the store.  If your grocery store does not carry lemongrass, try a local Asian market, or even an Asian restaurant.  If you cannot find lemongrass stalks here, there are internet sources for both seeds and plants.  To facilitate root growth, place the bulb end in water until roots form which can take 2 weeks-4 weeks (kind of like carrots). When the roots develop to ½ -1 inch long plant in the garden or pot. If kept indoors as a houseplant be sure it gets plenty of sun. 

Landscaping uses:

Lemon grass is a perennial that natively grows in dense clumps in tropical or subtropical climates…but as it can winter in pots, indoors in colder climates, it is a WONDERFUL addition to landscaping…  Lemon grass grows very rapidly, and depending on the variety can reach upwards of 5 feet (when I last tried my hand at this, my clumps of lemon grass were taller than me)…and smell fantastic, plus they  have bug repellant properties.  This makes them great for areas that you want screened from public viewing and/or areas where you might choose to have outdoor gatherings and ward off some of the blood sucking beasties…

Selection at Market:

Lemon grass is often available in Asian or Hispanic ethnic markets.  It can be found fresh in stalk form, prepared (generally minced) in tube or tub form, dried or powdered. 

When purchased fresh,  select fresh looking stalks.  Dry and brittle or soft and rubbery stalks are both indications that the stalks are old and should not be bought.  The lower stalk of fresh lemon grass should be pale yellow to white in color with green upper stalks.  If the outer leaves are brownish in color, do not buy. 

Dried or powdered lemon grass is sometimes available at the grocery store, ethnic markets or health stores.  The dried form needs to be reconstituted in hot water for about 2 hours before use and can take the place of the fresh stalk, though flavor is somewhat compromised.  The powdered variety is really only good for teas and curries…one teaspoon of dried is approximately equal to one stalk. 

Harvesting, Storage and preparation:

To harvest lemon grass yourself, cut the stalks as close to the ground as possible, between the end of the bulb and the roots.  If you are harvesting at the end of the season in a cold region, you can simply dig up the clump of lemon grass and repot the portion you plan to keep.  Scissors are awesome for harvesting and cutting it in general, at the plant tends to be fibrous.  Fresh stalks may be stored in water for up to five days or in a tightly sealed plastic bag for 10-14 days in the crisper part of the fridge.  To use fresh, it can be pounded and used whole or cut in slices. The fresh herb can also be cleaned, sliced or minced and frozen in WELL SEALED plastic bags (since the flavor is easily transferred to other foods) for 6-8 months.  To dry the herb, simply bundle stalks of the herb and dry in a cool dark place for maximum flavor or cut into pieces and dry on a screen or tray.  There is no need to discard the upper part of the grass, above the edible stalk as these have several uses as well.

Medicinal Uses:

Lemongrass is said to have diuretic, tonic and stimulant properties, to support/stimulate good digestion, relieve menstrual troubles and nausea to induce perspiration and cool the body thereby reducing fever.  Lemongrass tea has been used to treat fevers, colds, coughs, and upset stomachs coughs and has been used as a folk remedy for consumption, flu, gingivitis, headache, leprosy, malaria, pneumonia and vascular disorders.   Supposedly lemongrass aids in digestive problems, diarrhea and stomachache by relaxing the muscles of the stomach and gut and relieving cramping pains and flatulence.  In some places it is applied externally via poultice or massage, as a diluted essential oil to ease pain and joint stiffness.  Lemongrass can also treat bacterial and fungal infections (especially topically for athletes foot and ringworm), and is useful in aroma-theraputically to relieve nervous issues and due to its diuretic properties can help with urination difficulties and water retention. 

Dosage information:

*note* there is no clinical dosage for lemon grass from any official source on herbal medicine that I could find…however, most non clinical sources state that, as a tea, one cup of tea 1-4 times a day, and one source suggests that for hyperglycemia, dry extracts are recommended with the dosage of 80mg daily, taken in combination with other botanical extracts to support proper blood glucose levels.  Additionally, lemongrass oil can be taken orally in a highly dilute form, and can be used topically in a carrier oil.


Because of a lack of clinical data, lemongrass is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women without a physician’s recommendation, however some reports claim that lemongrass should not be used in pregnancy because of uterine and menstrual flow stimulation.  It is said to be suitable for children.  Lemon grass allergies and sensitivity have also been found in persons with grass and citrus allergies and/or sensitive skin.  I am assuming that this is in response to the topical application of the oil, as clinical studies report no adverse allergenic effects from lemongrass tea.   Extended use of lemongrass is suspected to interfere with liver function though clinical data does not clearly support (nor disprovs) this. 

Active Ingredients:

Lemongrass contains: 0.2-0.4% essential oil; acetone; 4.3% ash; 3.7% calcium; alpha-camphorene; caprylic acid; caryophyllene; ceryl alcohol; chromium; 1,8-cineole; 0.1-0.34% citral; citronellal; citronellic acid; cobalt; cymbopogone; cymbopogonol; citrolnellol; 0.02% cymbopogonol (leaf wax); decanal; n-Decylaldehyde; diacetyl; dihydropsuedoionone; dipentene; farnesal; farnesol; 7.1% fat; furfural; geranic acid; geraniol; geranyl acetate; hexacosanol; iron; isopulegol; isovaleraldehyde; isovaleric acid; limonene; l-linalool; linalyl-acetate; luteolin; luteolin glycoside; magnesium; manganese; methyl heptenol; methyl heptenone; myrcene; neral; nerol; 2.1% phosphorus; alpha pinene; 2.3% potassium; 8.2% protein; quercetin; rutin; saponin; selenium; silicon; beta-sitosterol; sodium; alpha-terpineol; tin; triacontanol; zinc. Fresh lemongrass contains approximately 80% water.

From http://www.florahealth.com/flora/home/Canada/HealthInformation/Encyclopedias/Lemongrass.htm   

Essential oils:[/u]

Lemongrass oil has a lemony smell ranges from yellow to amber/reddish in color with a thin/almost watery consistency.  Lemongrass essential oil, as well as its “sister” oils, citronella and palmarosa, can be used in insect repellents, room sprays, soaps and detergents. The aromatherapy benefits are said to be revitalizing, cleansing, and stress reducing.  Lemongrass is said to blend well with other citrus oils, geranium, cedar, lavender, ylang ylang, rosemary, pine, rose, and eucalyptus ( I generally just use it with lavender).  Lemongrass oil’s main components are myrcene, citronellal, geranyl acetate, nerol, geraniol, neral, limonene and citral—though components will vary depending on the variety of lemongrass that the oil comes from. 

Citronella Oil:

Citronella oil is classified in trade into two chemotypes:[7]
Ceylon type (obtained from Cymbopogon nardus Rendle) consists of geraniol (18-20%), limonene (9-11%), methyl isoeugenol (7-11%), citronellol (6-8%), and citronellal (5-15%).
Java type (obtained from Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt) consists of citronellal (32-45%), geraniol (11-13%), geranyl acetate (3-8%), limonene (1-4%). The higher proportions of geraniol and citronellal in the Java type make it a better source for perfumery derivatives.[8] [9] The name Cymbopogon winterianus is given to this selected variety to commemorate Mr. Winter—an important oil distiller of Ceylon, who first cultivated and distilled the Maha Pangeri type of citronella in Ceylon.
Both types probably originated from Mana Grass of Sri Lanka, which according to Finnemore (1962) occurs today in two wild forms–Cymbopogon nardus var. linnae (typicus) and C. nardus var. confertiflorus. Neither wild form is known to be used for distillation to any appreciable extent.
Citronella oil from Cymbopogon species should not be confused with other similar lemony oils from Corymbia citriodora and Pelargonium citrosum.
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citronella_oil

Palma Rosa smells like a blend of Rose and/or Geranium Oil (*note* dealers will sometimes sell palmarosa as rose geranium so check the source species name) and is effective in blends for treating various skin conditions as it helps balance oil production and is good for both dry and oily skin as well as having both antibacterial and antifungal properties.  The smell of palmarosa blends well with geranium and lavender and will emphasize the scent rose in mixed blends. 

Insect Repellent:

Citronella is probably the most well known member of the lemongrass family for its common use as an insect repellent…

If you are going to a mosquito infested area (or live in one) for an extended period of time, plant-based insect repellants may not be your best bet.  In clinical trials, the best protection, for the longest period of time comes from DEET or Picaridin based repellants…though the EPA lists lemon eucalyptus based repellents as being as effective as low dose DEET formulas.

That having been said…since, I’m not cool with putting something that can melt through my backpack AND my rain gear AND my sleeping bag from one little leaking bottle over the course of just a few hours onto my skin, and ESPECIALLY not my child’s skin…

Citronella is also listed as an effective bug repellent by the EPA (though not as effective as the above compounds)…HOWEVER…Clinic trials indicate that topically applied Citronella products need far more frequent application than DEET based products.  One of the more quoted studies indicate that insect repellents with a 10% Citronella formula require re-application every 20 minutes, though other studies indicate that the length of protection (some brands being effective for up to an hour to 1 ½ hours) often depends both on the type of citronella the oil is derived from and the type of mosquito. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that repellents do not protect all users equally. The effectiveness of a repellent depends on the mosquito species that is biting as well as the age, sex, level of activity, and attractivness (to the mosquito) of the human using the repellent as well as abrasion from clothing, sweat, rain, or water, and high ambient temperatures which can reduce the protection time by 50% with each 10°C increase in temperature. 

For some, citronella may cause eye and skin irritation, and there is some concern that there has been no long term study done to measure the effect of the concentration and amount of citronella based repellents required to be used.   

Studies indicate that citronella seems most effective used in combination with other repellents, and/or in other forms than a topical application (like a citronella candle).  Citronella candles have been indicated to reduce mosquito bites by nearly 50%.

Pet Use:

When it comes to calming “nuisance-barking” dogs, a spritz of fragrance under the chin is more effective than electric shock, a test by the Animal Behavior Clinic at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine has found.
Dog owners who tried both types of anti-barking collars preferred citronella spray over shock for their pets, according to a report in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (May-June 1996, Vol. 32).
“One owner thought the scent was preferable to her dog’s body odor.”
From http://www.news.cornell.edu/chronicle/96/6.6.96/barking.html

Culinary Use:

Lemon grass rocks for flavor.  It is VERY strong, so use sparingly. (my taste buds speak from direct and bracing experience Grin)  While the lower stalk and bulb is the preferred edible portion and can be used minced or slices in a variety of recipes, the entire blade can be used for flavoring and teas.  Lemongrass, if used properly, has a light lemon flavor that tastes great with the flavors of garlic, chilies, mint and cilantro.   Often used in curries and seafood soups, it makes a fine tea and is fantastic on chicken and pork.  Lemon grass is a common ingredient in Southeast Asian and Indian dishes, as well as Caribbean and modern fusion cuisine.  While lemon or lime juice can be substituted for lemon grass, the flavor just isn’t the same. 

For use in recipes, there are several preparation methods:
*Cut stalk into 2-3 inch pieces and bruise them by bending them several times and add them to your soup or curry.  If using this method, you may need to remove the lemongrass pieces. 
*Slice the lemongrass into thin slices and place these in a food processor or pound the slices with a pestle & mortar until softened and fragrant.

Lemongrass Tea:
Lemongrass can be taken as a tea with the recommended dosage of a warm cup of tea taken one to four times a day between or after meals, or as required. The infusion of coarsely cut or powdered grass is made using 2g of herb material to one cup of boiling water. The boiling water is poured over the herb material and extracted for 5-10 minutes and then strained.

Magical Correspondences:

Mercury, Moon, Air

Good for spells and rituals to promote peace, tranquility and calmness, to develop psychic power, for good sex, to find strength, to break negative patterns, promote mental clarity, and to purify…

Lemongrass is bound to Mercury and air.  It is said to repel dragons and serpents, and is burned, bathed in, or carried on the person for lust, fidelity, honesty, spiritual growth, strength, psychic powers, and purification.   
Plant Lemongrass around the home to repel and protect against serpent energy.  Drink a Tea to aid in psychic abilities and divination.  Carry it in a sachet or charm to attract the object of your desire and to bring honesty to your relationships.  Burn as an incense for strength and purification.  Put a handful of leaves in a mesh bag and place under the tap water for a purification bath, and to attract and keep a lover.

from http://www.mysticalblaze.com/MagickLemongrass.htm


Lemon grass has a couple of great craft uses.  Dried, it can be quite pretty in a dried flower arrangement.  Lemongrass can also be used as the base for a fragrant wreath, broom end, or to weave a basket from.  The advantage of using lemongrass is that any craft undertaken will smell yummy, lemony and happy.

Recipes and Spells:

Psychic spell box (attributed to Scott Cunningham)…this appears in a few spots on the net in several variations…

Keep Him Guessing (Kiss) Enchantment (Enchantments: 200 Spells for Bath & Beauty Enhancement by Edain McCoy)




Florida Water Eau de Cologne:
•   ¼ cup vodka
•   5 cloves
•   2 Tbsp. thinly sliced lemongrass
•   ½ cinnamon stick (about 2 inches long)
•   1 Tbsp. lemon peel
•   2 Tbsp. orange flower water
•   3 Tbsp. distilled water
Place dry ingredients in jar and cover with vodka. Let stand for a week, shaking daily. At the end of the week strain, and add orange flower water and distilled water. Pour into mister or atomizer, and use as perfume.

From http://www.taoherbfarm.com/herbs/resources/lemongrass.htm

Room Cleansing/Refreshing Disinfectant Spray
8oz water in a spray bottle, add 15-20 drops lemongrass and 15-20 drops of lavender, use as needed…great for use in a room/home where someone has been ill.

Iced Lemongrass Tea

1/4 c Chopped fresh lemongrass-tops or
2 tbs. Dried flakes
4 c Boiling water
Sugar to taste
Preheat teapot with boiling water; discard water. Add lemongrass and boiling water, steep 8 to 10 minutes; strain. Allow to cool, sweeten to taste, and serve in tall glasses with ice. Yield: 4 servings
(I think I got this from Henriette’s Herbal)

Lemongrass Marinade

3 fresh lemongrass stalks, chopped
2 tbsp. finely chopped green onion (include white)
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. dried hot pepper flakes
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
4 1/2 tsp. fish sauce
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Mix together and marinate 2-4 pounds of chicken. Marinate 4 hours or overnight. Grill or broil until done. You can also use a cut up chicken and roast it in a roasting pan.

Citrus Body Scrub
From MCS-Natural Beauty Recipes

6 tbsps unscented liquid body soap (preferably castile or other detergent-free formula)
6 tbsps grapeseed, jojoba, or sesame oil
1 tbsp sweet almond, kukui nut or macadamia nut oil
1/2 cup fine sea salt
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp lemongrass essential oil
1/4 tsp tangerine essential oil
4-5 drops neroli or lime essential oil

Combine the soap and oils together in a bowl until well blended. Slowly add in the salts, followed by the essential oils (which should be spread throughout the mixture). Smooth on small handfuls of the scrub onto wet skin (apply to dry skin cautiously for an invigorating treatment); rub with gentle pressure in circular motions. Rinse well or smooth off in bath. Store unused portion in tightly sealed (preferably glass) container in a cool, dark, dry place for 6-12 months.

Lemongrass Fried Rice

vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
1/2 tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tbsp. fresh minced ginger
3 stalks lemongrass, minced, white only
4 cups cooked rice
juice of one lemon

In a large nonstick skillet heat a little bit of oil. Saute the onions, garlic, ginger and lemongrass til they soften-don’t brown. Add the rice and saute all for about 5 minutes til heated through. Add the lemon juice and salt if desired. Serve with chicken or seafood.

Pickled Peppers

I grew cayenne peppers in the garden last year, and as usual, I had way too many for two people to eat. In fact, I had way too many for the whole of Mexico to eat. So here?s my solution:
Pick peppers when they?re shiny and red, wash them, and blanch them quickly with the little stems still attached. Then put them into jars and fill with enough vinegar to cover them. This will give you the right proportion of vinegar to pepper. Now, empty all the jars into a saucepan.
For each jar, add:
   One-eighth cup of sugar
   3-4 big cloves sliced garlic
   4-6 pieces of lemongrass (each about two inches long)
   3 fresh Thai basil leaves
Simmer about 15 minutes. Separately, boil jars and lids for about 5 minutes each. Then distribute the vegetables into each jar and pour the remaining liquid over the top. Seal the jars with the lids (I followed the instructions on the box of jars) and then boil them for another 10 minutes or so. Voil maybe not a peck, but pickled peppers nonetheless. They?re great on pizza, and stay very spicy.
From http://www.yougrowgirl.com/use/pickledperil.php#pickledpeppers


Lindsay RL, Surgeoner GA, Heal JD, Gallivan GJ. Evaluation of the efficacy of 3% citronella candles and 5% citronella incense for protection against field populations of Aedes mosquitoes. J Am Mosq Control Assoc. 1996; 12(2 Pt 1):293-4.



20 thoughts on “Lemongrass”

  1. It is very hard to find fresh lemongrass in the supermarkets. I did find the lemongrass in the produce section in a tube. How much of the tube would equall fresh. I am making this recipe and it calls for 4 stalks of lemongrass. how much of the tube would i use to equal that? Thank you Kathy

    • piratessa said:

      I have never really figured out a good conversion for lemongrass in a tube…I generally start out at half the recipe amount, and add til the taste is right. Depending on the recipe, you may be able to substitute lemon zest also.

  2. Lemongrass sounds good I might try to grow some. : )

  3. greenley said:

    is lemon grass ok to burn when pregnant xx

    • piratessa said:

      I’m assuming you mean the actual plant…in which case (as far as I am aware), I can’t see (if you know that you don’t have a reaction to it) that it would be any worse than burning anything else–I’d do it outdoors in a well ventilated area where smoke isn’t going in my face…

      If you are talking about candles or such with lemongrass or citronella oils, opinions (because there doesn’t seem to be any reliable evidence either way) are a mixed bag. Once again, if I were in are in a well-ventilated space, and I knew that I had no reactions to citronella, I would (and have) used them.

      I have however read that you should not use citronella essential oil products directly on the skin while pregnant.

  4. Joy of the Lord said:

    I wanted to know how much lemon grass would I need to make a gallon of iced tea? Also the healing agents in it, do you think they are as effective in cold tea as they are hot? I read the story about the Dr. in Israel sending his cancer patients to the farmer who grew lemon grass. They were to drink 8 glasses of hot lemon grass tea before they go to Chemotheropy. He said it’s a suicide to cancer cells and doesn’t harm the good cells. I just wanted to know if it would be just as effective as cold tea.
    I have been researching about lemon grass because I started buying it just recently and I’ve seen so many things it helps. This stuff is amazing!
    I enjoyed your info on your page. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  5. Joy of the Lord said:

    A correction…That was 8 glasses a day!

  6. Jan Amodeo said:

    How much water should I reconstitute dried lemon grass with for a recipe?

  7. cool site dude!!

  8. I just want to mention that lemongrass in tea CAN cause an allergic reaction. I have a sever grass allergy, so bad that I’m allgic to most grains, and I had a reaction to a loose leaf tea that included lemongrass. It was a mild reation compared to others I’ve had, but it’s enough that I now consciously avoid lemongrass in all forms.

    • Just an update to this, I have had a few severe anaphylactic type reactions to lemongrass in foods and tea in the last two years, each one worse than the one before. This is currently my worst allergy, possibly because I sometimes receive food and drinks in restaurants that contain lemongrass, even after informing restaurant staff of my allergy.

      • Thanks for sharing! I’ve been wanting to put out a post about allergies–the importance of being aware of allergies, being considerate of the use of potential allergens (which is just about anything) & the ethics of proper disclosure…I’ve just not gotten around to finishing it!! Your message is a reminder to all of us of the importance allergy awareness…

  9. SUPERB BLOG!!! truly and genuinely informative…i would like to know how to weave a basket out of the lemongrass leaves..so i u hv any links plz do inform me 🙂

    • thalassa said:


      I would probably start by looking for some basket weaving tutorials–ones that are based on native crafts (grasses and pine needles are both traditional mediums for some beautiful baskets make by various native peoples around the world). Honestly, one of the best places to start would probably be youtube, and the best technique to start with would probably be a coiled basket.

  10. karen ragno said:

    .So many interesting thoughts and comments and I learned many new things. I loved reading about you. Thanks for sharing!

  11. donald mcpherson said:

    This is the most comprehensive, informative and entertaining source for lemongrass info I have come across. Thank you.

  12. Very useful! Just harvested two big clumps of lemon grass and needed some inspiration for what to do with them.

  13. My late Thai step-mom cooked the most amazing dishes. She included lemon grass in many of her creations. This post brought back some good memories of her.

  14. I’m actually really bummed out, I had a severe reaction to my tea I made lastnight. I was very badly sick lastnight with awful upset stomach, swellng and a red rash spread all over my entire Body, I was hot and shaking, bumps/ hives, itching all over, my tongue and my throat were swelling , it was hard to breath with increased heart rate. I thought I was going to vomit several times, but had awful diarea. My husband gave me two benadryl and after about 30 minutes of suffering and shaking, I was finally able to sleep.
    The ingredients in my tea, were… Lemon grass, spearmint, and green tea leaves. Sure did taste good, but I felt like I was dying hours later after having several glasses.
    I do not recommend lemon grass tea for anyone. Yikes!

    • Allergies are always a risk for everyone… I’m sorry you had that experience! Have you had a similar experience with citronella? They are very closely related… IF you haven’t, its probably something you should be aware of as anyone can develop an allergy anytime, even if its something they’ve previously been okay with.

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